First post in a series…
I am not theologically trained, I’m just an electronic or software engineer that turned amateur theology into my official thesis procrastination project. (This was a part of the process of deconstructing and defeating the harmful memes that had lodged themselves in my mind, as well as figuring out how best to help other people stuck with harmful memes. But I digress.) During this time, I came to understand more of what I believe is taught to people studying theology. This post is based on that. I’d love it if some of the theology students reading this blog, or any other theologically educated person, could comment on my understanding (or lack thereof).
In theological language, every human has a god. Their god is the thing by which they direct their lives, that thing that serves as their moral compass, that influences their decision making. Let’s start with some simple, stereotypical examples…
The alcoholic has a life ruled in part by alcohol. The drug addict, drugs. This influences their ethics (consider drug-induced theft, etc), their behaviour (while under the influence), their motivation in life (figuring out where and when to get the next fix). In theological language, one could say that alcohol is the alcoholic’s god, drugs the junkie’s god, etc. (I realise I’m over-simplifying the situation, please bear with me and understand what I’m trying to communicate, rather than poking at the holes.)
The psychopath, or the serial killer rather, to take another extreme-stereotypical example, is someone who has in some ways made himself his god. He goes around deciding who lives and who dies, without much care for any other kind of authority, they have become their own ultimate authority. On a much lighter note, I’d suggest a number of stereotypical celebrities also have a strong element of self-worship going on.
I’m sure the “god-shaped hole” is something most of my readers would have heard of by now? There is something in this remarkable human creature that has a particular desire to attach itself to some guiding principle in life.
It does seem some people are trying to turn Darwinism or evolution into their god, caring only about game theory or survival as the ultimate truth in their lives. (Such people would argue for altruism only for its survival benefits.) How our altruism or morality evolved is not important in this discussion, that’s “Lah”. We live and experience on the level of “Meh”. We believe in compassion and the golden rule as a guiding principle, not because we had a debate with our genes and our genes convinced us through better rhetoric that compassion is a better choice…
This is potentially one of the big breaks in communication between “sophisticated” theologians and atheists, they’re not talking about the same kind of God concept. The atheist often talks of “god”, referring only to the supernatural, while the “sophisticated” theologian would like to know what the atheist’s “god” is, i.e. what concepts he has guiding his life. What has the atheist, what has Dawkins, for example, filled his “god-shaped hole” with? (Science and empiricism plays a big role for him, clearly, and guides most of his life?)
I’d like my readers to each contribute descriptions of their god. You don’t have to call it “god”, you can also name fictional characters if you like. Christians: please try to refrain from citing scripture or dogma. Please describe your “god” in terms of values. (A God of love? Compassion? Or a God of jealousy and punishment?)
The humanist, for example, would be worshipping a “God of compassion/love and reason…” Feel free to drop the “god” part, I’m just explaining the language. Some people have “humanity”, community, or our grand interconnectedness, as a kind of “god”. Some people have a pantheistic notion of “existence as a whole”, the universe, being “god”.
In my post about the Golden Compass, I quoted Timothy Mills:
…she is only reacting to what Pullman rejects and condemns in his books; she makes no mention of what he promotes. Inquiry. Curiosity. Maturity. Compassion. Determination. Loyalty. Opposing tyranny and evil.
If that were to be described in “theological” language as “a God of inquiry, curiosity, maturity, compassion, determination, loyalty and opposition to tyranny and evil”, it would sound much like the kind of God Christians are supposed to be worshipping, right?
So, according to what values and principles do you direct your life? Where do you find your meaning in life? What values and principles would you be prepared to die for? Or more interestingly, what would you live for? Please try to be as constructive as possible, and try your best to leave phantoms and other people’s baggage outside. Thanks.